Is it normal for parenting to feel like you’ve got absolutely no skin?
We went for Shayla’s 8-year-old checkup this week, and she kept up quite a brave front. “Am I doing a great job?” she asked, at least 4 times, as we drove there, parked, and got to the waiting room.
“You’re doing awesome.” She was behaving just fine, but she was nervous, I could tell.
She was hoping for no shots, and praying for no bloodwork. Those are normal worries. However, I couldn’t help think of the first time I took her to the doctor, and she held it together until they asked her to get undressed and put on the little paper outfit. She whimpered and cried for 20 minutes while we waited for the doctor, reminded, I suspect, of the medical visit when she was pulled out of school and headed to an emergency foster home. Her mom had left rehab, and the kids were on their own. They were protecting her, sure. But they terrified her as well, doubtless checking for sexual abuse and who-knows-what.
Our appointment went fine this time: no shots, no needles. But I was so worked up by the time we left I felt like crying. Such a landmine, laying out in the path of a routine day.
Where does empathy end and projection begin? Maybe she was just normal nervous, not traumatized nervous. Maybe Shayla was fine, and it was me. Or maybe sometimes I do feel the things that are too much for her, a sort of hyper empathy, or mind meld. Maybe I just saw too much Star Trek as a kid.
On the other hand, I’m capable of total obliviousness. Shayla’s on a “what dog should we get” kick, and goes through the pros and cons of various species. Mostly cute is good, though she loves German Shepards so she must have missed all those attack dog movies in the 80s. (Sorry, I don’t find German Shepards cute, although the nice ones seem noble, even kind). She’s always saying “when our dog dies, should we get [insert potential cute species]…” and it was getting on my nerves, like the loss of our dear aged dog was just one step toward a shopping spree. I’m a bit frayed from giving our 14-year-old dog eyedrops and taking him to eye specialists, as he loses his site. “It’s ghoulish,” I whined to Jay. “Should we be encouraging this when our dog is dead daydraming? It’s like she’s ready to be rid of him.”
Jay was quiet for a minute. “I don’t think she needs any lessons in what loss is,” he said.
Oh, right, there is her whole trauma. Maybe a little pet dreaming is OK.
I guess I’m in my own skin some of the time, at least.